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Clam That Was Killed Determining Its Age Was Over 100 Years Older Than Estimated

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the oldest-there-is dept.

Earth 366

schwit1 writes "In 2006, climate change experts from Bangor University in north Wales found a very special clam while dredging the seabeds of Iceland. At that time scientists counted the rings on the inside shell to determine that the clam was the ripe old age of 405. Unfortunately, by opening the clam which scientists refer to as 'Ming,' they killed it instantly. Cut to 2013, researchers have determined that the original calculations of Ming's age were wrong, and that the now deceased clam was actually 102 years older than originally thought. Ming was 507 years old at the time of its demise."

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366 comments

Shame on them (5, Insightful)

2.7182 (819680) | about 5 months ago | (#45429279)

What was the point of examining this individual animal?

Re:Shame on them (5, Funny)

msauve (701917) | about 5 months ago | (#45429307)

To ask what its name was. Now we know it was named "Ming." Science marches onward.

Re:Shame on them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429355)

Probably meant "ming" as in "ming'er" or British slang for disgusting.

Re:Shame on them (5, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 5 months ago | (#45429613)

It was actually named after the Ming Dynasty - which was around when the clam started life. Even with the additional 100ish years added, the name still fits as the Ming dynasty was still around at the time.

Re:Shame on them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429867)

wouldn't that be "already around at the time"?

Re:Shame on them (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | about 5 months ago | (#45429895)

It was actually named after the Ming Dynasty

That does make more sense than Ming the Merciless...

Re:Shame on them (5, Funny)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 5 months ago | (#45429327)

What was the point of examining this individual animal?

Look at us still talking when there's science to do...

Re:Shame on them (3, Funny)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#45429405)

There's a theory that the older the clam, the better clam chowder it makes.

We'll have to use science to find out for sure, just need to get more 500 year old clams to get a larger sample size.

Re:Shame on them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429481)

to kill it.

Re:Shame on them (5, Informative)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 5 months ago | (#45429623)

The summary incorrectly states they killed it to examine it. In reality, it was frozen upon capture (standard procedure as they were gathering samples for study) and was long dead by the time they opened it for study, or realized it was hundreds of years old.

Re:Shame on them (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about 5 months ago | (#45429631)

Why were they freezing random clams exactly? Was it on the dinner menu and they wanted to keep it fresh?

Re:Shame on them (4, Insightful)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 5 months ago | (#45429701)

Well, you catch them in bulk, and preserve them for later examination by freezing. I doubt they would make good eating, but the reason is about the same. Its not pleasant to examine a 500 year old clam in a lab that's been sitting in a box for weeks/months/years decomposing.

Re:Shame on them (5, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | about 5 months ago | (#45429909)

Its not pleasant to examine a 500 year old clam

That seems rather self explanatory doesn't it?

Non-destructive testing (2, Insightful)

seven of five (578993) | about 5 months ago | (#45429285)

Ever heard of it?

Re:Non-destructive testing (-1, Flamebait)

cheater512 (783349) | about 5 months ago | (#45429311)

Clearly not. These climate change scientists are also experimenting with our atmosphere to prove their hypothesis!

Re:Non-destructive testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429353)

they used a hammer, right?

Re:Non-destructive testing (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429391)

...why? It's just a clam.

Re:Non-destructive testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429449)

Maybe they should have called the clam Bn_Tre [wikipedia.org]: "It became necessary to destroy the clam to save it"

(Hmm. Someone's saving Slashdot from that evil UTF-8.)

Re:Non-destructive testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429487)

Are clam rings really hard to see?

Just by looking at it, wouldn't they have had a general idea that the clam was really old? Looking at tree rings, for example, just by glancing at it there is a HUGE difference between a 10 year old tree and a 100 year old tree. I would assume the same is for clam rings.

So, they could've maybe thought, "Hey this clam is really old. Let's get the data without killing the poor thing?"

Re:Non-destructive testing (3, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 5 months ago | (#45429635)

there is a HUGE difference between a 10 year old tree and a 100 year old tree

But not so much visible difference between a 400 year old tree compared to a 500 year old tree.

Also, there are two places to count clam rings - and the hinge is generally used as the better one (though opening the clam to see the hinge rings kills it), though in this case due to SOO many rings, the ones on the inner hinge were not as easy to count as the ones on the outer shell - hence some (or one in four) were missed.

Re:Non-destructive testing (4, Interesting)

uniquename72 (1169497) | about 5 months ago | (#45429719)

My first thought was: Do MRIs work on clams? This is like the genius who killed the oldest known tree in the world [wikipedia.org] to see how old it was.

Re:Non-destructive testing (3, Funny)

queazocotal (915608) | about 5 months ago | (#45429819)

MRI will work just fine.
However, it'll just tell you that it's not got cancer.
It does not have resolution enough to resolve the perhaps .05mm thick annual rings.
A number of obvious approaches occur - for example - cut a small plug of shell with a plug cutter.
This is basically a drillbit with a hollow core, designed to remove a rod of material intact.
Yes, this will somewhat injure the clam when the small plug is removed, but it can then be polished and examined microscopically to determine the age.
My first thought would be to take this rod, and examine the composition in an appropriate electron microscope.

The clam would be slightly injured, but it's unlikely to be a clamity.

Re:Non-destructive testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429827)

You dredged up a bunch o clams, find a good way to keep them preserved until you can observe them.

7 Years (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429293)

It took 7 years for scientists to count to 507 (the rings the clamshell form). I'm glad my math skills are superior. It must be all that metric math in the UK...

Re:7 Years (5, Funny)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 5 months ago | (#45429337)

It took 7 years for scientists to count to 507 (the rings the clamshell form). I'm glad my math skills are superior. It must be all that metric math in the UK...

Yeah, Silly Metric. Only intellectually superior countries are holding out on this issue ...

Re:7 Years (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 months ago | (#45429499)

When was the last time you actually counted as high as 507? I'm not talking about counting to 100 five times and then another seven, but actually counting each number from 1 to 507?

Re:7 Years (5, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | about 5 months ago | (#45429873)

When was the last time you actually counted as high as 507? I'm not talking about counting to 100 five times and then another seven, but actually counting each number from 1 to 507?

Seems like it would take a while. How many numbers is that, exactly?

Re:7 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429929)

Not that long ago, sadly.

MmmmmChewy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429319)

Ain't gettin' that in your basket of steamers!

mankind is a cancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429329)

There are monsters and they be us!

Re:mankind is a cancer (3, Interesting)

akeeneye (1788292) | about 5 months ago | (#45429513)

“The Earth has a skin and that skin has diseases, one of its diseases is called man.” - attributed to Nietzsche

Re:mankind is a cancer (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429647)

"And crawling on the planet's face, some insects... called the Human Race."

  - The Criminologist

Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429339)

I am a scientist myself, but even I feel slightly bit disturbed by this realisation - that the oldest animal on Earth was killed in the experiment. I don't know why, I guess I have some kind of respect for the uniqueness of the status of this animal.

Re:Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (4, Insightful)

game kid (805301) | about 5 months ago | (#45429367)

The even bigger shame is that this is what scientists end up doing...just imagine less science-friendly oil drillers and poachers who don't give a shit about clams that are in the way of, well, *tosses coin* clams.

Re:Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (4, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#45429477)

Actually when they do that offshore drilling it tends to thrill paleontologists. Nothing macro-scale is really alive at those depths, but things old dead and long since buried tend to surface, several of which would have been undiscovered without oil drilling.

Re:Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (2)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 5 months ago | (#45429439)

The oldest animal on Earth that we know of was killed. I'm sure there's lots of older stuff out there that we just aren't aware of.

Re:Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (4, Interesting)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 5 months ago | (#45429549)

The oldest animal on Earth that we know of was killed. I'm sure there's lots of older stuff out there that we just aren't aware of.

Hush. Now someone is going to go out, find it and kill it. Then probably say, "Yeah, that clam wasn't theoldest living animal. This was."

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Wow, this _is_ kind of a shame (2)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 5 months ago | (#45429741)

This was hardly the oldest animal on earth. There are species of sponges that live for thousands of years.

Time to do some testing on clam killers ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429361)

Let's start with cold water immersion experiments ,
and if they survive that we can move on to high speed
vehicle crash tests, in which the assholes who pretend to
be scientists can take the place of crash test dummies.

What kind of asshole kills something just to check its age ?

The kind of asshole who doesn't deserve to live.

Clearly... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#45429393)

Our duty is clear: we must capture and kill as many clams as possible to locate an even older clam, thus obviating any guilt about having killed the oldest clam!

Re:Clearly... (1)

Scutter (18425) | about 5 months ago | (#45429457)

That clam was asking for it.

Clams on the half shell (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 5 months ago | (#45429395)

"Unfortunately, by opening the clam which scientists refer to as 'Ming,' they killed it instantly."

I hope they had some cocktail sauce on hand. That or a little lemmon.

Re: Clams on the half shell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429493)

Yeah, Jack Lemmon was kind of a little guy. A lemon would be better; Lemmon tended to be bitter. Sorry, I'll clam up now. See you at the clambake?

Science is Inherently Destructive (1, Informative)

joelleo (900926) | about 5 months ago | (#45429401)

Science destroys to understand. LHC smashes particles to examine their innards.Biologists dissect cadavers to examine their innards. Geologists smash rocks to examine their innards.

In this case, the fact that the animal was still alive should have been indication enough that science should leave the old boy alone, or attempt only explicitly non-destructive examination. This sounds a lot like Indiana Jones's style archaeology...

Re:Science is Inherently Destructive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429567)

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Aging Clam

Can't be much worse than the last one we've had.

Re:Science is Inherently Destructive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429607)

RIP subatomic particle 54576215981235. You died for us to learn more.

Re:Science is Inherently Destructive (3, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | about 5 months ago | (#45429837)

Some science is destructive, while other science isn't. A lot of it depends upon the research objectives, as well as the available methods to conduct that research. In a lot of cases it is even imperative to do non-destructive studies, either for reasons of conscience or to generate reproducible results.

Examples:

We study stellar evolution through observation, because we are limited by the methods available.

We study subatomic particles by smashing things together because we can only observe their interactions (i.e. we cannot observe them directly).

We study many parts of the body using MRI because it is both unethical to destroy the subject and because it produces better results.

Climate Scientists (0, Troll)

barv (1382797) | about 5 months ago | (#45429403)

Shoot first. After the damage is done "Gee, maybe I was a little hasty."

RIP the world economy.

Re:Climate Scientists (3, Interesting)

Eskarel (565631) | about 5 months ago | (#45429633)

So because a handful of scientists killed a clam to get some information about it all climate scientists are incompetent? Seriously.

Scientists also killed the oldest living organism (5, Informative)

domulys (1431537) | about 5 months ago | (#45429409)

507 years is pretty old, but not quite as old as Prometheus [wikipedia.org] : a ~5000 year old tree that was cut down in the 1960's so that it's rings could be counted. At the time of its demise, it was the world's oldest known living organism, and (as far as I know) no older organism is known to exist.

Re:Scientists also killed the oldest living organi (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429447)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Clone

Re:Scientists also killed the oldest living organi (1)

mirix (1649853) | about 5 months ago | (#45429451)

Trees can't spit, though.

Re:Scientists also killed the oldest living organi (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 5 months ago | (#45429527)

They can drip sap on you and yours. Trees have been known to work closely with birds, producing something that rhymes with spit. Don't think for one second that trees are harmless.

ironic idiocy (3, Informative)

dirtyhippie (259852) | about 5 months ago | (#45429419)

They killed the animal to measure on the inside, which they thought would be easier, but:

on the second count, the researchers concentrated on the growth rings on the outside of the shell.

So, the more precise measurement came from the outside, and they killed the oldest living animal for nothing but stupidity. I sincerely hope that instead of accolades, they get nothing but scorn from their colleagues.

Re:ironic idiocy (5, Insightful)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about 5 months ago | (#45429705)

it was frozen upon collection (standard procedure). So it was already dead when they counted in inside. Do not wish scorn upon others for it may fall upon you.

Just like the bristlecone pines (5, Interesting)

pinguwin (807635) | about 5 months ago | (#45429431)

There was a scientist who cut down the oldest non-clonal living tree in the world, a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains in California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_(tree) [wikipedia.org] It was about 5000 years old. They knew it was old but didn't exactly know how old it was but they sure did when they cut it down. D'oh! Even years later people would meet him and say, "Hey, weren't you the guy who..."

Re:Just like the bristlecone pines (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429645)

Interesting that it was about 5,000 years old. The young earth theory is looking more credible all the time.

Re: Just like the bristlecone pines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429851)

Conveniently forgetting rocks, fossils and dinosaur bones.

Re:Just like the bristlecone pines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429729)

There was a scientist who cut down the oldest non-clonal living tree in the world

More detail here: http://www.terrain.org/essays/14/cohen.htm

Re:Just like the bristlecone pines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429841)

But hey, at least he had a warm house! (You know, cause he lives in California?)

Schrodinger's clam (5, Funny)

wwalker (159341) | about 5 months ago | (#45429465)

And they call themselves scientists?! How do they know that the clam wasn't already dead when they opened the box... erhm, I mean the shell?

Queen's vagina (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429467)

you've got to give that clam some air once in awhile!

For the science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429483)

Science never gets wrong or makes an error, you insensitive clod.

But what did it taste like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429547)

Tough as old boots, or like a fine vintage wine?

We need to be told.

This Clam shall be immortalized (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429557)

by the new FOSS operating system, MING (MING Is Not GNU)

"When the rockets go up.... (1)

EricTheGreen (223110) | about 5 months ago | (#45429559)

....who cares where they come down? That's not my department." says Wernher Von Braun.

(ok, not exactly the same scientific disciplines here, for sure....but the mindset is certainly close enough.)

Re:"When the rockets go up.... (0, Flamebait)

eyenot (102141) | about 5 months ago | (#45429839)

Werner von Braun said those words because he built rockets for the fucking Nazis, rockets that rained on London mercilessly. Then, after the American fathers of rocketry were all hunted down by the American Gestapo during WWII, von Braun was brought to America to take the credit as "the American father of rocketry". When all along he had been a fucking Nazi and didn't care at all about making a rocket specifically to fall on London with an explosive payload. You stupid sack of shit.

How many? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429563)

How many clam years is 507?

This is the same magical clam that saved Peter G.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429569)

Considering how old this clam is, it has been around for longer than the creation of the US itself. I think that this is the same clam that saved Peter Griffin and never shut up. I think the reason they killed it was because they got tired of hearing it talk. Or do I have the characters mixed up?

Assholes. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429597)

FTA: 'Butler explained the decision to ScienceNordic."On the outside, the mollusc shell is curved, and that makes it difficult to get the right angle for measuring and counting the growth rings," he said. "The growth rings are also better protected inside the hinge ligaments." But when you've lived through 500 years of history, growth rings get pretty crowded on a small hinge ligament. So, on the second count, the researchers concentrated on the growth rings on the outside of the shell.'

So they decided to open/kill it to get a more accurate measurement, got one that was grossly inaccurate, and then later got a more accurate measurement from the outside. People should get fired for an error like this.

death was an act of mercy (1)

ClassicASP (1791116) | about 5 months ago | (#45429627)

poor clam grew old enough to watch it friends, parents, family and entire generation die off leaving it alone yet around to become a great great great great great great.....(insert more greats) grandparent, and then as a final anticlimax it was taken from its natural habitat and killed to satiate the curiosities of a few whitecoats in the name of science. humans are inumane. shame on them! at least the clam didn't have to live to endure having the the makeup industry test its cosmetic products on it like the poor piglets.

Radiocarbon? (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about 5 months ago | (#45429637)

Couldn't they have chipped off a tiny piece of it's shell and used radiocarbon dating?

Re:Radiocarbon? (2)

Oronar (942125) | about 5 months ago | (#45429917)

I'm pretty sure that radiocarbon dating only helps you figure out how long ago an organism (or piece) died. When it's living it's taking in C14 and C12 from the environment. Once it's dead and stops taking in carbon you can compare the ratio of C14 left to the C12.

A Clams life that reminds me of heaven (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429675)

Obviously happy with it's situation to live for over 500+ years, or no wrist to cut.

Christian's heaven, where one meets with their family, long gone dog's and cat's for eternity.
There's a point where total bliss and being with the same people would get a bit old,
500 years of that there would have to be some out.

Islams heaven is.. well only so long they stay virgins and hand fed grapes has got to
get old, again 500 years of that there has to be an out.

I asked a friend of mine an Aleut from Alaska what their after life was, he said the belief is to come back as
Eagles, Moose, whatever (Animism); now that has it's own out as it's a normal life span of that animal then another go.

Stuck as a Clam the happiest day of it's life after 507 years could of very well have been when it was slit with a knife.

500 years later (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429713)

http://xkcd.com/889/

And the anti-science spin continues (5, Insightful)

bledri (1283728) | about 5 months ago | (#45429759)

It's a type of clam known to live extremely long lives that people are studying to understand aging. It was part of a haul of clams caught on a field trip of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences. And it's a clam. You know, one of those things we catch and eat by the millions every year without shedding a tear.

But God forbid a scientist kills one and actually learns something. And since one of the many things we might learn is how the climate has changed over the last 500 years, we get to blame climate science.

In summary:

  • Over Fishing entire species to near extinction: Fine.
  • Kill one clam that turns out to be really old add to our understanding of the oceans and climate: Evil, arrogant, and self-centered!

WTF?

"Happy" as a clam? (5, Insightful)

eyenot (102141) | about 5 months ago | (#45429773)

A clam's entire sensory apparatus is very simplistic compared to what you experience as a human being.

For a clam, there isn't much sensory input. A basic aspect of its life is completely cutting itself off from the outside world.

Its life was a repetitive series of shell openings and closings. The flavor of various things floating in told it whether to intake or expel seawater. The threats of various predators told it whether to shut very quickly or to stay a bit open for the purpose of expelling seawater.

Its internal organs were probably healthy. It likely had no recollection of the ups and downs of pains and aches. Things we're used to as human beings, that we even use to mark turning points in our lives.

It likely had no sense of the world's existence beyond the approach of sustenance or poison, the clamoring of various threats, and the terrain of whatever was immediately behind it (toward the hinge of the shell). It would be a stretch to consider it to be a sentient being, or one possessing self-awareness.

Even its reproductive cycles were involuntary spurts of either eggs or sperms, just released blindly into the water based on temperature and food supply.

The "happiness" of a clam is entirely due to the low margin for error inherent in a system with truly very few variables.

How'd it taste? (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 5 months ago | (#45429829)

I bet with a little white wine sauce, it would still be pretty tasty. Polish it off with a little chardonnay.

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45429865)

I've been assured by the esteemed physicists of Slashdot that entropy means atoms can only make things that live 100 years at most.
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